Autism peak body Amaze has launched ‘Change Your Reactions’ – an Australian first public education campaign via Campaign Edge.
More than half of autistic Australians and their families experience significant social isolation, with 40 per cent revealing they sometimes struggle to leave the house because they’re concerned about being subjected to discriminatory or negative behaviours in the community.
Research found that 85 per cent of Australians know someone with autism and only 29 per cent know how to support an autistic person, revealing a significant gap between the community being aware of autism and creating an autism- friendly community.
The campaign urges Australians to take steps to build a more inclusive community that understands, accepts and positively engages with autistic people.
CEO of Amaze Fiona Sharkie said Change Your Reactions is the first campaign of its kind in Australia: “There has never been a social behaviour change campaign to promote understanding and inclusion of autistic people in Australia.
“Only 29 per cent of Australians know how to support an autistic person, but only 4 per cent of the autism community feel others know how to support them.
“Many autistic people have reported being treated harshly and judged unfairly by the public in the way they are described and how people react to them.
“In fact, 53 per cent of autistic people said they have been described as ‘naughty’ and as many as 70 per cent have been described as ‘anxious’ while a staggering 81 per cent report having been stared at by people in public.
“Worryingly, 64 per cent of autistic Australians say people actively avoid them while 59 per cent have reported being described as ‘weird’.
“Amaze has undertaken extensive research about what autistic people, their families and carers want the community to know about autism. The insights of this research – as well as extensive consultation with the autistic community – informed the Change Your Reactions campaign.
“That young boy you see in the supermarket becoming agitated at the check-out, his mother doing everything she can to stop the meltdown she knows is coming, doesn’t need you to stare or tell her that her child simply ‘needs discipline’. She needs your help.
“It is important for Australians to remind themselves that autistic people are not disabled by their autism but mostly by how others respond to it. Our aim is for a better understanding of how autistic people experience autism so others are less judgemental. It’s about being curious, not critical.”
The Change Your Reactions campaign includes a mix of advertising across regional and metropolitan television, print, radio, digital and social media.
Says Sharkie: “Supporting autistic Australians to tell their stories and share their experiences is an integral part of the campaign. Autistic characters featured in the campaign are portrayed by autistic actors.”
According to Sharkie autism diagnoses are rising with the latest ABS data revealing that 205,200 Australians are autistic, a 25.1 per cent increase from the 164,000 in 2015 making the launch of Change Your Reactions especially timely.
Adds Sharkie: “We are confident that Change Your Reactions will help Australians understand the facts about autism and educate them about how they can support autistic people in the community. Changes to the way we behave and react can make a big difference to an autistic person.”
Australians can learn more about how they can change their reactions and pledge to support autistic people and their families in the community at changeyourreactions.com